A rather interesting career choice, becoming a game warden might be the perfect choice for you. If you’re interested in serving the public, helping wildlife, and preserving nature, this is a good career path for you.
While many believe the path for becoming a game warden comes with experience in law enforcement, this is not the only path. There are several paths to becoming a game warden. First, let’s look at the job duties and the steps you can take to become a game warden.
Job Duties of a Game Warden
As a game warden, you will have several duties. These duties include far more than just walking around a forest, coastline, backcountry, or another natural area. Your main duties will all have to do with research, educating the public, and managing wildlife populations.
Within these general categories, you will have several duties as a game warden. These include:
- Investigating any wildlife crimes
- Managing the wildlife populations
- Presenting educational programs to those within the public
- Taking on search and rescue operations
- Providing other law enforcement with assistance
- Putting together biological data
- Assisting with many different conservation programs
- Investigating any reports
- Aiding in court cases, including testifying at trials, when necessary
- Handling public safety, including safety from larger animals and other types of wildlife
Depending on the area you work within, you may also have other duties, as well. Often game wardens will handle law enforcement when it comes to hunters, trappers, and anglers. You might be in charge of seizing firearms, watercraft, fishing equipment, and other equipment and vehicles.
Common Skills Needed to Be a Game Warden
If you want to be a game warden, there are some skills you should have, including:
- Leadership skills – You will need to take charge of specific situations and remain calm.
- Good moral character – Game wardens are a part of law enforcement. Therefore, you will need to have integrity and be an honest person.
- Physical stamina – As a game warden, you will need to do quite a bit of walking, running, swimming, hiking, and even boating. You may need to do some of this in bad weather. Therefore, being in good physical shape is important.
- Communication skills – You need to be able to educate the public and communicate well in many situations. Therefore, it’s important to have great communication skills.
Of course, if you want to be a game warden, you should also enjoy being outside in nature.
How To Become a Game Warden in 4 Steps
Step #1 – Meet all the Minimum Requirements
Each state may be a bit different, and the state and federal levels might be a bit different too. However, you will likely need to meet the following minimum requirements to become a game warden:
- Must be at least 18 years old, in some cases 21 years old
- Cannot be over the age of 36
- Must hold a valid driver’s license
- Cannot have any felony convictions
- Cannot have any misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence
- Must be a U.S. Citizen
- Must be physically and mentally fit
In some cases, you may have to go through a physical fitness test. You may also need to go through a medical evaluation and a psychological evaluation.
Step #2 – Complete High School
You will need a high school diploma or GED to become a game warden. This is necessary if you want to go down this career path. During high school, you should also do the necessary research to determine if a game warden career is right for you. If possible, shadow a game warden in your area.
Step #3 – Earn a College Degree
If you want to become a game warden, you will need a college degree. You can get an associate degree in criminal justice, ecology, wildlife management, conservation biology, fisheries conservation, or biology. You don’t have to get a bachelor’s degree, but it may be helpful with some job opportunities.
In some cases, you don’t need a college degree to become a game warden. However, this is a very competitive career, and many applicants will have at least an associate degree.
There are different types of game warden positions. The type of position you prefer may determine your major. For example, if you want to work in Pennsylvania as a game warden, you might want a fish and wildlife management degree. Other states, such as Alaska, may prefer game wardens with a criminal justice degree. This is because you will likely be an Alaska Wildlife Trooper and work as a state trooper.
Do your research and figure out what type of career you want as a game warden. Then, choose your major accordingly.
Step #4 – Complete any Necessary Training
Some game warden positions will require training on the job, as well. Therefore, you may need to complete a pre-employment process to enter into the training. This additional training will vary based on your location and your actual job.
For example, as a federal game warden, you first need to complete a 20-week basic training program. This training is held in Georgia at the Federal Law Enforcement Agency. The training includes studying criminal investigations, wildlife law enforcement, firearms training, electronic surveillance, and crime scene identification training.
After completing basic training as a federal game warden, you will need to complete 44 weeks of field training.
If you become a game warden at the state level, you will need to go through rather extensive training. Every state is a bit different. For example, California requires 31 weeks of academic training and 10 weeks of field training. Georgia requires 23 total weeks of training. Check with your state to find out how long the training will be to become a game warden.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Game Warden
How much can I earn as a game warden?
When you decide to become a game warden, your average salary will depend on your experience. The range goes from $40K to about $80K. The average game warden salary is about $58K per year.
Where you work and how long you’ve been a game warden will determine your actual salary. Some locations pay more than others. It may also depend on the type of area and the dangers that might be present.
What is the job outlook for game wardens?
If you’re considering going into the career, you should know it’s a growing career. However, the job outlook for game wardens is only about a 4% growth rate over the next ten years. This is slower than the average occupation by just a little bit.
What type of work environment will I enjoy as a game warden?
Most game wardens will spend a large amount of time outside. You will likely work in state and national parks, along with other local parks. It’s common to work near lakes, streams, in the desert, or mountain areas.
It’s also common to work in hazardous weather conditions. Game wardens will likely work during natural disasters and other threatening conditions. You may be in charge of finding and helping injured people. It’s also possible you will have to deal with emotionally upset and even violent people in some cases.
What type of schedule do game wardens work?
If you become a game warden, you will likely work full-time. It’s common to work some overtime, as well. Hours can be a bit odd and vary, depending on what’s going on. For example, you may be responding to emergencies at odd times of the day or night.
It’s also common for game wardens to work over the weekend and on holidays. They will work when the wilderness is the busiest, too. If your area has a seasonal time when campers, anglers, hikers, and hunters are out in the wilderness, expect to work extra hours.
What type of positions are available for game wardens in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
There are three main types of positions you might be able to take on as a game warden for the USFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). These include:
- Special Agents – As a special agent with the USFWS, you will do investigative work. This could include undercover work, witness interviews, and even making raids. A law enforcement degree is best for this type of position.
- Federal Wildlife Officers – As an FWO, you will work with public safety and law enforcement. This is a similar position to a game warden working for a state agency. It’s best to get a degree in criminal justice or a degree in nature conservation for this type of position.
- Wildlife Inspectors – Another position with the USFWS is one as a wildlife inspector. This position is someone that will process wildlife exports and imports. You will also help with animals moving between countries. A biological science degree is best for this position.
If you want to become a game warden and work for the USFWS, these are the three common positions.
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